Editor’s note: This is one installment in a five-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.
If a voter wanted to find ASUC presidential candidate David Ramirez Douglass, she or he would walk past the throngs of flyering hopefuls on Sproul Plaza and head to a little blue card table just outside Moffitt Library.
The table is a reliable perch — a weathered relic that has been stationed there all year — for Douglass and his fellow members of the Defend Affirmative Action Party. One Tuesday afternoon, DAAP members discussed their platforms over homemade salsa and corn chips. As he wiped crumbs off his hands, Douglass paused the conversation to run over campaign activities for the day.
When he left the table later, he stopped briefly in front of Dwinelle Hall to talk to a few students about his platforms before delivering some classroom announcements — a markedly different and comparatively laid-back approach from his competitors. Rather than brief, intense campaigning, Douglass says he is constantly building the student movement.
His is a different kind of presidential run.
• Remove Janet Napolitano from her position
• Restore affirmative action policies
• Make public education accessible to all
“I’m traveling nationwide and organizing the community around these issues,” said Douglass, a senior majoring in Latin American studies and film who is also running for ASUC Senate. “(The ASUC government) shouldn’t be all these students coming out of nowhere for one week and saying they’re going to fight around these issues … (and) once they’re elected, they don’t do anything.”
Douglass is a member of DAAP, a campus political party working to remove UC President Janet Napolitano from office, restore affirmative action policies, make public education accessible to all and stop all forms of sexual assault and harassment, among other goals.
The party has had little success in electing officials to the ASUC — they last elected a candidate to the senate eight years ago and have never elected an executive candidate to office. Last year, Douglass ran an unsuccessful campaign for ASUC president with DAAP, in which he only garnered around 330 votes before vote redistribution, seeding him last in the election.
Douglass knows it isn’t always smooth sailing for those who choose the DAAP life.
“(Those in DAAP) struggle together … A lot of students take these political issues very seriously, and that really cements (us) together,” Douglass said. “We need to be fighting around (DAAP’s) issues and … use our privilege and opportunity to address these issues.”
Nonetheless, Douglass seemed unfrazzled and unconcerned about rallying last minute votes by handing out campaign literature.
His platforms are largely inherited from last year — save his stance to remove Napolitano, who has become a lightning rod for student protests as a result of her history of deportation while serving as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Douglass announced his candidacy for president during a protest that sprung from Napolitano’s campus visit in February.
As a transfer student, Douglass came to UC Berkeley in 2011 when the Occupy movements on campus were in full swing. He quickly became immersed in campus politics and is now a student organizer for BAMN, a national coalition fighting for affirmative action and immigrant rights, which is closely affiliated with DAAP.
Douglass’ dogged activism originates from his family life — raised in a biracial family in Santa Rosa, Calif., Douglass says that from a young age he was exposed to societal injustices often intertwined with immigrant labor.His family was involved with political and immigrant rights movements and encouraged him to be politically active.
Yvette Felarca, a national organizer for BAMN, lauded Douglass’ authenticity as a student leader.
“(He is) already fighting for students; he’s already a leader on this campus,” Felarca said. “He’s already acting on his principles. DAAP is already fighting and winning this movement and struggle. But it’s time for the ASUC to be a leadership of this movement, too, and to actually represent student power on this campus.”
At The Daily Californian’s ASUC Candidates Forum last Friday, Douglass railed against Napolitano’s politics and all who aligned with her principles, proclaiming he was the “only candidate on (the) stage dedicated to removing Janet Napolitano.”
As the other candidates spoke to fostering a relationship with Napolitano, Douglass crossed his arms and shook his head. More than once, he threw his head back and hooted.
“Any other party who says they will work with Janet Napolitano has sold out,” Douglass said at the forum. Members from DAAP whooped in support. “They have sold out.”
Although the organization has a rather radical reputation on campus — primarily a result of their protesting — the ASUC has reflected some of their views.
For example, CalSERVE Senator Sean Tan authored a bill last semester expressing no confidence in Napolitano’s appointment as UC president. It was passed unanimously by the senate. Regardless of the similar sentiment between Tan and DAAP, each has broached the issue differently.
“The way we address the issue is very different,” Tan said, although he said he was not familiar with DAAP’s platforms. “I’ve been working with immigrant students in terms of how I can better support (them) in the UC system.”
Douglass says DAAP is unique from other ASUC political parties because it is prepared to speak on the behalf of persecuted students and stand up to those who differ in opinion.
“We’re not career politicians. We’re student leaders leading the student movement, and we’re committed to building a movement for equality and social justice in American society,” Douglass said. “Politicians will adapt to their audience and concede to racism and sexism, but we’re prepared to stand on our politics and fight for what we believe in.”